Bed bugs are tiny, parasitic insects that feed on warm-blooded animals, usually when they are asleep. They can be found in any crevices of the bed, headboard, cracks in the bed frame, nooks of the bed, or any other hidden place related to your sleeping arrangement. Bed bugs do not cause any serious infection, but they are still considered a sign of improper sanitary measures. Bed bugs can be higher in areas where beds are not regularly cleaned, or multiple people use the same bed.
Bed bugs can infest seemingly clean homes without getting noticed. It may occur if you are moving your furniture to a new place. One major cause is buying used mattresses or furniture without looking for traces of bed bugs. Bed bugs can survive without any food or nutritional source for up to 2 months. For this reason, they can survive in used mattresses or beds that are given away.
Another cause is frequent traveling. Traveling to different locations involves staying at hotels or guesthouses. The beds in these places have a high turnover of people, which means that many different people use the same bed. This issue can also be faced in hospitals, dorm rooms, or shelter homes. Bed bugs can also be found under deteriorating paint or wallpaper, carpeting, furniture seams, and electrical switches. They can also propagate through holes or cracks in walls from one place to another.
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs do not occur because you have not cleaned your place enough. Bed bugs can occur even in clean areas because they only require a warm-blooded host for their nutrition. They can easily find hiding spaces, even in case of new furniture. The risk is higher in places where the same furniture has been used repeatedly by many people over the years. This provides an excellent source of nutrition for bed bugs. These places include hotels, guest houses, hospitals, shelter houses, dorm rooms, nursing homes, refugee camps, trains, buses, etc.
Bed bugs occur all around the world. They were more common in developing countries, but now they are also found in developed countries. The increase in number is due to greater traveling and increased resistance of bed bugs to insecticides.
The signs and symptoms of bed bugs are almost similar to other common insect bites. When a bed bug bites, they draw blood from the person and inject a small amount of its saliva into their bloodstream. The signs of bite become apparent after a few days. You may notice raised, red bumps on your neck, arms, back, legs, or elsewhere on your body. These can be itchy in some cases and cause discomfort. Bed bugs often bite in rows, so you may develop multiple red bumps at a site. If a person becomes allergic to the salivary contents of a bed bug, it can result in a serious allergic reaction. This can manifest in the form of itching, hives, or blisters across the skin. A serious allergic reaction is rare, but it can occur in the case of an immunocompromised person.
If you see red bumps on your skin, particularly after you wake up, it can be a sign of bed bugs. Look in all cracks and crevices of your bed for signs of bed bugs. If your bed has a bed bug infestation, you may find bed bugs droppings that are dark brown in color. These can be more visible on the nooks or folds of a mattress. You may also notice tiny eggs or scrapes of their exoskeleton in these areas. If you develop an allergic reaction to bed bugs, immediately seek medical help. Your doctor may ask for a history of traveling or living in a place with a high turnover rate. No particular lab tests are required for the diagnosis of bed bugs.
A bite from a bed bug can resemble other types of insect bites such as mosquitoes, fleas, mites, etc. These can be differentiated on the basis of history and presenting symptoms.
Treatment of bed bugs is done in two stages. At first, the symptoms of the affected person are treated. In many cases, people do not even know that a bed bug has bitten them. Mild symptoms do not require any special care and get better on their own. If you have itching, irritation, or signs of an allergic reaction, your doctor will recommend certain medications to reduce the signs of inflammation.
Once your symptoms have been treated, the next step is to clear out the bed bug infestation from your room. This requires professional help. It is difficult to remove a bed bug infestation on your own because you may miss several hiding spots. A pest control professional will use a combination of chemical and non-chemical treatment options to exterminate maximum bed bugs. If your furniture is heavily infested with bed bugs and not treatable with professional pest control, you may have to dispose it off and buy a new one.
Medications for bed bugs include topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, loratadine, etc., to relieve allergic symptoms.
After professional help, the majority of the cases of bed bugs are resolved. In places with a high turnover rate, regular pest control can help reduce the risk of bed bugs.
It is difficult to prevent a bed bug infestation because they can occur even in clean places. It can be controlled to a certain extent by covering your mattress with a protective cover. If you’re traveling, avoid placing your luggage on the bed. Wear clothes that provide more skin coverage to avoid getting bitten by bed bugs.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 12, 2023.